Monthly Archives: June 2006

Compact Cranks on my Bike

Last week my coach and I were discussing a workout whereby I am supposed to cycle up Kings Mountain twice. I told him that my cadence is about 60-70 RPM usually, at which time he tells me about compact cranks.
Compact cranks are a crankset that have a smaller bolt pattern to allow smaller chain rings on the front. Basic mechanics says that using smaller front chain rings will allow more direct power transfers although at a higher cadence. And as Lance Armstrong always preaches, pedalling at a higher cadence is much better than burning your muscles out at a lower cadence.
I head out on my newly installed compact cranks. The feel is different as now the ratios favor a higher mechanical advantage for power transfer, although at the higher pedalling rate.
The first hill I encounter is a short 6 percent or so. I drop to a 34/25 and roll over it at 75 RPM. Not bad for 5 min out of the house. Normally, I am either grinding or out of my seat as it is only a stone’s throw away from my house and I’m barely warm.
As I move down Foothill Expressway, I find that my cadence is definitely higher for a given gear on the back. It also presents an interesting adaptation challenge as now I am shifting a bit more to compensate for my higher cadence. I also find I sit in a higher cadence a little longer because I am used to watching my speed and cadence together.
At the end of Foothill Expressway, there is a little steep climb up to Page Mill Road. It is probably a 5% grade or so. I downshift and make it up that hill at 85 RPM. Now I’m warm and going over a hill that normally requires me to stand and grind, even though it’s a short distance.
After that, it’s just a rolling ride to Woodside Road. There is yet another challenging, longer hill from Alameda de Las Pulgas to Canada Road. Again, I am about 10 RPM higher than normal, about 70-80 RPM. I cruise over the hump past Buck’s and onwards to Kings Mountain Road.
At Kings Mountain Road, I proceed up. My coach has asked me to do this twice and the day is warming up. I head up and on its very steep sections, I am about 70-75 RPM and on its flatter steep sections, I am about 75-80 RPM. As I spin up the hill, my HR is rising, as is the temperature. Some sections of Kings Mountain Road are fully in the sun, and as I pass through them, I am feeling the heat. About half way up, I start to crater because of the heat and the knowing sign is the drop in cadence to about 50 RPM, and general weakness through my legs. I grind the rest of the way up and decide to not the next climbing rep. Instead I continue down Skyline and 92.
One weird thing here is the competing climate. The very warm sun constantly beats back a chilling wind and in general, I do cool down. But I feel the energy has been sucked from my legs for sure. I recover as I blaze down 92 and hit Canada Road.
Here I am supposed to practice Ironman Race Pace. But it’s difficult because the heat has sucked my energy away. I proceed to spin and shift gears to maximize my speed relative to my energy level and while maintaining 90-95 RPM. On certain stretches, I do notice that my speed is higher, due to the higher mechanical advantage. I zip home and am glad to make it there. I run a quick 10 minute brick run and then I’m done.
Need to take some time to adapt to the higher cadence pedalling. It is driving my HR higher to maintain the higher cadences. I need to shift more and be aware of the new power transfer ratios at each gear.
Definitely the compact cranks are great for hill climbing. Better spinning is going to allow me to get up and over hills without grinding and burning my legs. I am looking forward to getting used to them, especially prior to Ironman Austria.

Kinesio Tape

This week I was having calf problems. They come and go now, but for a while it was a huge challenge as my calves adapted to the Pose Method of running, or running more on the balls of your feet. Although they say it takes 2-3 months to adapt, it took me a good year to be running without consistent calf soreness. Thank god for ART to realign built up scar tissue and make my damaged calf muscles functional again!
But this last week it was one of those times when my calves acted up, as they will on occasion over time. I went in to see my Graston Technique sports medicine doctor. After some painful but incredibly helpful scraping of the calves with Graston tools, the knots were cleared out.
Then, she took this weird tape out and proceeded to cut it into a 3 strips, but attached at the bottom. Sort of like a pitchfork. She takes this tape configuration and tapes it to my right calf, which is the most problematic. Very funky.
This tape sticks to skin like nothing I’ve seen. You can swim with it and it won’t come off. It causes some sensation in the muscle to the body that it’s being supported, and the tape does help keep the muscle supported and not swinging around to cause or at least minimize damage.
She tapes me up knowing that I am an athlete, and athletes seldom just sit around with injury. I tell her that the next day I need to do my long run so she knows that I’m going no matter what, so might as well try something to help.
I go out for a 14 mile, 2:18 run. My calf starts hurting midway, but hell I have to finish my run so I keep going. It’s pretty sore all the way to the end. But then, when I get home, I do notice one difference. The pain has stopped! It was only sore while running and when I got home and subsequently walking around, I find that there almost no pain at all! Somehow this tape did really support my calf, even though it was sore through the run. I am sure it would have hurt more and been hurting for a long time after if I had not. I probably would have injured it again. I suspect the pain was more protesting while it was in the healing process. After all, she treated me and then I immediately went running on it without giving it enough time to truly heal!
This tape is called Kinesio Tape. It’s expensive but I highly recommend it. You can get it at: They even sell books on how to tape up your muscles. Cool!

Ironman Paranoia

I’m towards the end of training for Ironman Austria and getting psyched for the race, which is only about 3 weeks away. As I reflect on the training period for this Ironman versus New Zealand last year, I notice some distinct differences, and I am reminded of them as I talk with other friends who are doing their first Ironmans this year.
One big difference this year is my confidence in my ability to finish Ironman, given the training that I am doing. Last year, I underwent what I would call “Ironman Paranoia”, which is when you never think you’re ready, despite all the training you’re doing.
You go out for many weekends, biking long hours all day, running and swimming on top of that. You stress about your nutrition. Will I eat enough? Will I get a stomach ache? Will I throw up on the course and drop out? You get aches and pains in your body and legs and worry about whether or not you’ll collapse in pain during the race. You wonder about pacing and whether or not you’ll have enough energy to last to the end. But couple that with your desire to do well and you wonder if you can push a little harder and do better, or ultimately get a slot to the Kona Championships. Or you may bonk and have the worst experience of your life trying to get to the finish line.
So you train. And train. And train. And maybe even overtrain. You do more than you really need to because you never feel really prepared. And therein lies the danger that you’ll cross some invisible line that throws you into an overtrained state and opens up cause for injury. This is why I have come to trust my coach and do exactly what he tells me, because he, the veteran of many Ironmans knows how much to train, and when it is too much.
When you watch Ironman on TV, you see all sorts of things happen to people. People collapsing in exhaustion or heat. People with wobbly legs, crawling to the finish line. People who are throwing up and yet pick themselves back up and race to the finish line.
And you see people sitting by the side of the road quietly sobbing, sobbing because they have given up and can go no further and can’t realize their dream of becoming Ironman.
I for one don’t like leaving things to chance, so I prepare physically and mentally. But as time goes by, I get to know myself better and find out how to prepare just enough and not too much. Mostly, I just relax and enjoy the moment when I’m out there racing, and the crowd goes wild as I approach the finish line, and the announcer screams “Dave Shen, You’re an IRONMAN!”
There ain’t nuthin’ like it in the world. So don’t mess it up.


After a few weekends of long rides, I am finding that it takes 2 days to recover. I am growing older and my body is changing, and needing more time to recover after long, hard efforts. So I am on a quest to figure out how to recover faster.
I now foam roll before and after working out, and stretch. I also use ART to help realign scar tissue to make it functional. And I have started using ice baths.
Recommended to me by my coach and my ART physical therapist, the flushing effects of the icing and the ensuing blood flow after warming back up helps remove lactic acid and shortens time for recovery. Previously, I only did this after Ironman New Zealand and after every NYC Marathon. It sure makes me feel better after a long race.
I once tried to fill up my bathtub with frigid, ice filled water and step into it. HA! Impossible! No way could I step into that!
I have to sit in an empty bathtub first. Then I fill the tub with cold water and let it fill above the level of my thighs. Then and only then do I load the water with ice. I use two big bags. I dump one in until it almost melts away. Then I load in the other bag. This keeps a frigid water bath going for about 10 minutes, which is about as long as I can stand it!
Then I go take a warm shower, which helps the flushing effect after the icing effect. I hope that it will reduce my recovery time. I’ll find out tomorrow on Monday.

More on Honu

Some more thoughts:
Logistics are always a problem at races. This one was no exception. Getting there in the morning was not well thought out. The start was about 6 miles away, on rolling hills, from the hotel. Not good. No way I was going to ride there in the morning. Parking was limited there, so you needed to get there early in the morning or else no parking spot for you! And then, after the race, how does one get back there to get the car? T2 was back at the hotel, but remember your car is still sitting back at the beach where we started. Not even a shuttle set up – you’d have to beg a ride, ride your bike, or get a taxi to travel back there to get your car. Or come with many friends and figure out logistics.
Drafting was key on the swim. I just kept finding peoples’ feet to follow, and the crystal clear waters made it easy to see the bubbles of other swimmers. One downside; as I mentioned in my previous post, we all were swinging wide of the buoys which added to our time, and the sun made it hard to see you were on track. I remember passing one buoy on the right finally, and realizing I was at least 30m away from it! This contributed to my additional swim time….

Honu Half Ironman Report 6-3-06

Honu went well except for overheating on the run.
Had my best half IM swim here, hitting the mat at 40:12. I thought the swim was setup poorly. The sun had risen right on the line of buoys and we were sighting into the sun as we tried to find the buoys. A lot of us ended up swinging wide unfortunately as an offshore wind was pushing us seaward, and poor sighting made it hard to know how close the buoys were.
Bike started off well. The temp was fairly moderate although a bit muggy and warm. Definitely not October Kona weather! Took a good 15-20 min to settle down on the bike and get my HR steady. Windy conditions made some stretches tough and I don’t think i’ll be bringing my front ZIPP wheel again! Some gusts made steering difficult and pretty hairy as I lost control of my front wheel while on aerobars.
I tried to keep even power and didn’t overdo it in an attempt to NOT cramp towards the end of the bike like on my last 3 half IMs! Bike ended up being about 3:10 which I felt good about given hills and wind.
Got into T2 and popped out onto the run with fast pace so my brick tolerance is very good now.
BUT…towards mile 5 I started feeling not too good. I started overheating and feeling the heat/humidity. At every aid station I would guzzle some gatorade or cola but it just kept gurgling in my stomach. It seemed like I stopped sweating and it was tough to drive my body to do more. I went to the bathroom once and saw that my urine was yellow, despite all the stuff I was drinking so I slowed down and walked and jogged until mile 10. At mile 10, the clouds rolled in and a nice cool breeze started blowing. I felt much better and then I started running and ran to the finish line at a good clip.
Definitely was not acclimatized and it’s something I really need to watch out for in the next hot weather race. At least I did not cramp on the run so at least I solved that. I also grabbed some cool sponges and held them in my hands. That felt pretty good as well and I heard last year somebody threw ice into some light gloves to keep cool. Looks like it works.
Biking still needs work. At least pacing is good, but I need to continue getting stronger. Same for the run, and need more strength for hills. The run course was through their golf course and had these steep choppy hills throughout.
2 Large Water Bottles each w/ 1.5 scoops Accelerade and one scoop Carbo-Pro, 3 small scoops of Endurolyte powder.
2 bites Balance Bar
1 GU every 45 minutes
1 Saltstick electrolyte capsule every 30 minutes
2 Large Fuel Belt bottles of Cola
1 GU every 45 minutes
1 Saltstick electrolyte capsule every 30 minutes
Onwards to IM Austria training.

Kona Report 6-1-06

Kona is having beautiful weather, which is totally not what Yahoo! Weather predicted. I hope for cloud cover on the day of the race to keep the blazing sun off our backs. Previous racers have said that the run is super hot in and around the golf course of the Mauna Lani Resort.
I put together my bike and find out that my derailleur is thrashed. Chalk it up to the Samsonite gorillas who work the luggage loading at airports. I take it in to get it fixed but the guy doesn’t adjust my shifters. This makes my ride the next morning really challenging as I find out I can only use 4 out of 9 gears.
The wind on the Queen K picks up as I get out there. It is famous for these 30+ MPH gusts. I have my ZIPPs on and the wind is whipping them around like nothing else. This makes for a wobbly ride and hard to maintain the aerobar position. I make it back OK on the 4 gears.
I go out for a focus run with some light intervals and then for a quick swim. The water is warm but then I swim through some chilly spots. Later, I find out that this is actually fresh water seeping through the lava cracks all the way from the top of the volcano down to the ocean. It is butt cold coming down from all that distance. Amazing!
Luckily, the supporting bike shop sets up in the hotel and I get my derailleur shifting fixed. There, I get registered and roam the race shop. I find this new gadget called the SaltStick It is a salt tablet dispenser that is mounted within the aerobar handle. All you do is twist the dispenser and it slowly gives you one tablet at a time. COOL! No more fumbling with ziplocks on the ride!
At the moment, I sit in my hotel room waiting for some other friends to arrive. I also pop open 2 cans of Pepsi to de-fizz. One day is probably not enough to completely remove the gas, but I hope it’s enough. It’s my secret weapon after all and I need the caffeine and sugar to get me to the finish line.
I relax, watching the first season of 24 on DVD. Yet another TV series I’m hooked on now…